A Randomly Selected Newspaper Headline:

The following is a randomly selected newspaper headline from many years ago:

Welcome to my blog. Please feel free to leave a comment. I assure you I always read and appreciate everything you have to say. Unfortunately, thanks to Blogger being, well . . . Blogger, I can not respond to comments nor leave any on your blogs. They simply disappear into the ether. Occasionally I will remember to respond in the next blog post I put up, but usually these good intentions slip my mind. So if you want to ask a question or get a response to any comments you may have please leave an email address or other contact method in your comment and I will get back to you.

I have also added a separate page to the blog for the Tower of Magic with a brief summary of all the rooms of the ToM in the one spot. The link is just below this and above the main body of the blog, or you can just click here.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Highcroft Castle - Week Sixteen

I started this week making rugs as mentioned in my previous post.  I won't go back over how I made them here, so if you missed the last post and want to know more please go back and read the post titled "Faux Rag Rugs".  The main focus this week was on polymer clay.  Working with polymer clay has never been a particular skill of mine, but I am quite pleased with the results of this effort.  As I made a range of items from food to kitchen knives to crowns there are too many bits and pieces to list each and every item I made over the past few days, but if you are interested you will find pictures of eveything on Flickr here.  The most notable items I made include the main feature of the dessert course.  It is supposed to be a "subtlye", a dish that looks like one thing, but is infact something different.  Mine is a swan and although it looks like a swan, it is made out of "sugar" and instead of having swan inside it it is stuffed with stawberries embellished with gold leaf.  The white clay swan was dusted with fine white sand before baking to give it a slightly 'grainy', sugary look.  As it is a centrepiece, I used liquid gold leaf to paint the swan's beak as well as on the strawberries and the tray upon which the whole lot sits.   Everything on the table in the above picture was hand made from clay apart from the pile of plates in the bottom lefthand corner, the candlearbra and the plates on which the poached pears sit.

For the treasury I've made about a dozen varied heads for pole weapons (spears, axes, etc) for the weapon rack and a spiked ball for a mace. There are also seven assorted crowns in gold and silver and decorated with jewels.

For the kitchen I made a range of rather dangerous looking knives, a ladle and strainer, a small cauldron/pot, trays, plates jugs and other kitchen necessaries.  The one item really worth mentioning is the "rubbish bin", of which I have yet to take a good photo.  I used a pre-bought hollow barrel and packed the bottom with alfoil so I only had the very top to fill.  I then filled it with leaves, bones both raw and cooked, carrot tops, some grey slimy things that are meant to be eels, some gravy and topped it off with a broken goblet.  I also made some mice who will be added to (and around) the barrel.  I will also add a hunting cat on the bench beside the barrel.  For the washtub I made one third of a pot to give the impression that the water in the tub is deeper than it is and then 'submerged' it in 'water'.  The water is Senic Water and I added suds by injecting it with real suds while it was still liquid.  I filled the bath in the bedroom in the same manner.

The only other item I've worked on this week that's not polymer clay related was the bird in the Sorcerer's Study.  I made the basic bird previously, but this week painted it in a pale lavender and gave it wings and a tail of real feathers dyed vibrant shades of purple.  He still needs his beak and eyes painting, but is looking quite spectaular already.  This week I hope to sort out the Mystery Room.  I'm now pretty sure it will be a throne room, so I need to make a dias and finish off the throne and find some suitably plush and regal fabric for upholstery and curtains (etc).

Friday, May 28, 2010

Faux Rag Rugs

Months ago when I first started planning Highcroft I thought I might use some rag rugs on the floors. At the time I knew that a rag rug was as the name suggests made from rags and that they had been around long enough to look at home in a castle. When I did a little more research I discovered that rag rugs were made by essentially crocheting the rags together. This ended the idea of making rag rugs. There are some things that some people just can't do and crochet is definately in my "can't do" list. So I came up with the alternate idea of straw mats. If you've been following this blog, you'll know I recently spent a couple of weeks searching for a store selling mini straw hat braid to make some straw mats/rugs for my castle. You'll also know that I finally ordered some last week.
So what did I do this week?
The solar rug
The Sorcerer's Study Rug
I came up with an idea about how to make a faux rag rug and discovered that the result is quite effective. I found some knitting yarn in the local craft store, the kind that variates in colour and thickness as it goes along. It struck me as perfect for making a rug, so it came home with me. I smeared some tacky glue over a piece of plain fabric and starting at the middle pressed the yarn into the glue in a spiral until the rug was as large as I wanted. The resulting rug is a little bit eccentric in shape, not being a perfect circle, but looks quite effective once in position on the floor of the solar. A second rug soon followed for the Sorcerer's Study and I have more yarn in a colour to suit the bedroom to make some rugs for there too. By the time my order of straw braid arrives, the entire castle will probably already have it's full compliment of rugs. Perhaps the castle's inhabitants will need some straw hats?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Highcroft Castle - Week Fifteen

I decided that as the catacombes had not been touched for weeks, it was time to give them a little TLC. I finished the paint work on the stones by adding another couple of layers of 'washes' then adding some rub on paint in brown and copper to give some extra variation to the colour and to make things look a little dirty. Next I filled the two shelves in the left side wall with the remains of VIPs who had been intered in the catacombes long ago. The two bodies are actually one skeleton separated into pieces. Each is covered with a velvet shroud. The shrouds were given an aged decayed look by holding them over a candle flame to burn holes in strategic spots, then dumping them in water before the whole lot caught fire. The burials were finished with a bit of bling - the crown on the top skeleton is actually an old, cheap ring which looks like a crown from a distance but if you look really closely you might notice the design is actually of teddy bears. On the opposite wall I made a built-in shelving unit in what was previously a big hole in the wall. This is where the castle's chronicles and other important documents are stored securely. It may seem strange to keep papers in an underground space that is probably a little damp, but keep in mind that long ago in it's history, the castle was built by a Sorcerer-King, so a little spell to preserve the paper wouldn't have been hard to come by. The snake in the photo is a glass pendant I found in the local craft store and thought would make a good addition to the Sorcerer's Study. When I put him in there I discovered he looked more effective when you look down on him rather than up at him as you have to in the Sorcerer's Study as it is at the top of the tower. So the serpent has taken up residence in the catacombes.
The Sorcerer's Study itself is looking quite good, in fact it is the most complete room in the castle. I filled the bookself with faux books, scrolls and a few other odds and ends. The books are two blocks of wooden books that came with the shelf and two lots of books printed from a miniature printables website (Jim's Miniature Printables). I was going to have real books on the shelves and had been collecting them over the past few months - then discovered the books didn't fit on the shelves! A couple of the real books did make it on, lying in a pile on the bottom shelf. The scrolls are quite simply white paper 'aged' with coffee and rolled into . . . well, a roll and cut into scroll sized segments. On the top shelf are some jars made from colourful beads. The top of the drawers at the back of the room was similarly piled with books, jars, a crystal ball and a small pewter dragon. The gemstone tree beside the doorway was my find of the week; at $6 there is no way I could have bought the components to make my own. On the wooden perch made last week I have used air-dry clay to make a bird shape which I will paint and feather to (hopefully) create a stunning fantasy bird. Suspended from the ceiling is a bird perch made of air dry clay which houses an owl from Town Square Miniatures. As the perch is right over the table I hope the Sorcerer has a spell to stop owl dung dropping straight down or he is in for a messy time! Under the table and hiding under a dropped book a cat is hunting the fantasy bird. This room pretty much complete, it just needs a floor rug, accessories for the table and a sorcerer to be complete!
I have made a start on 'lights' for the castle in the form of torches and candlesticks. These aren't working lights (I used working lights just once and have a long list of reasons for not doing so again). The torches wre made from staircase spindles painted black for the handles and black wire twisted about to form . . . well, I don't know what this bit is actually called, but it's the bit where the fire is. These hang from the walls (or pillars) in the catacombes, treasury and kitchen. I have also made floor standing candlesticks to spread through out the castle. These are made from air dying clay supported on bamboo skewers. Once dry they were painted with a metallic paint in a pewter tone and each was topped with three or four candles. The candles were made from real wax by using drinking staws as moulds. The instructions for this were in one of the more recent dollshouse magazines, though I forget which at the moment. These will be scattered about the castle wherever there is an empty spot in need of filling. This pretty much leaves only ceiling lights to make. I need something grand for the great hall, something practical for the kitchen and as for the other rooms, they may not even get any at all and settle for floor standing candlesticks or wall mounted torches and candles.
I spent a lot of time this week trawling through the internet looking for two things: Ideas for the "Mystery Room" and supplies for the castle. If you've been following this blog you'll be familiar with my dilema over the Mystery Room - I just can't decide what to put in it! Thanks go out to Irene for sending me some very useful links about castles, but sadly they didn't really help me make a choice. The problem is that all of the really interesting rooms don't belong halfway up a tower. A few days ago I decided that I'd try to make a throne and that if it turned out all right, I'd put it in the Mystery Room to make it a throne room. The photo to the left is the result. The piece of white card on the floor is for the back of the chair and will fill the space between the two white 'swirls'. Once it's been painted and upholstered I think it will look quite convincing as a throne, but is it right for the castle? I'm still not entirely sure that I'm going to use the Mystery Room for a throne room. That said I do have a picture in mind of what will be going on in the throne room - some children who are up past their bedtime have sneaked (or is that snuck?) in to the throne room while the adults are occupied down stairs and are pretending to be kings and queens.
As for the other time consuming internet search of the week - supplies. I started looking for something to use as a table runner for the table in the Great Hall. I had in mind a nice, brightly coloured jacquard ribbon with a pattern suitable medieval/castle somewhere between 3cm and 6cm wide. I could find countless ribbons that were 1cm wide or 10cm wide that would have been perfect if they were a different width. Eventually I found some ribbon being sold by an ebay seller (heratigetrading) that looks like it will do the job. I am a little nervous about buying things from India, but the seller also has some stock in the US and pretty good feedback, plus it was all I could find I liked, so I took a chance and placed an order for two different ribbons so I can pick which looks best when they arrive. Also on ebay, I bought a cauldron, some pots and a candlearbra from seller muireannrua from whom I've bought before with no problems. The cauldron and pots are for the kitchen while the candleabra is for the table in the Great Hall. Lastly on ebay, I went to the extravagance of buying a book slope to sit on the table in the Sorcerer's Study. It was bought from seller amd5758 whose items are just lovely. I was actually just looking to see if they were selling some more fretwork (like that used in the Great Hall chairs) to use in my own book slope, but they didn't have any listed and they did have a book slope that looked perfect for the job. The final purchase for the week was from minidolls.com where I finally found some straw braid in a natural straw colour to make some straw mats from. I also ordered some braid in different colours and some wigging in various colours.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Mystery Room (Again)

Highcroft Castle - Week Nine Originally uploaded by Alennka

As Irene very sensibly suggested, including a photo of the room in question will help you visualise the room. This pic includes some random furniture that won't be in the finished room.

This is my first attempt at adding a blog post directly from my Flickr account. I hope it works, but if you have trouble seeing the photo or reading the post please let me know and I'll re-blog this photo the conventional way.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Mystery Room

One room, so many choices! I just can't decide what to do with the room on the middle floor of the tower. Here are some of my current ideas for the room and why I like or dislike the notion: Armoury Castles are defensive structures, so need a supply of weapons to be defended with. I included an armoury in the last castle I made and discovered that making good weapons isn't easy - all my swords came out wobblely for a start. Buying them is very expensive and to fill an entire room I'll need a lot of weapons. I don't think the location of the room is good for an armoury - it's too far away from where all the "action" would be. Lastly, I have already decided to incorporate arms into the Treasury, so adding a separate armoury would be duplication. Bedroom I've tried a single bed in the room and it takes up too much space in the room and doesn't look right at all. It could be a nursery with much smaller cribs and other early childhood bits and bobs. The problem with this idea is that I wasn't going to put a door in the doorway, so the children would be free to crawl out of the room - right onto a big staircase with no rails at all! It doesn't strike me a being particularly safe for the kiddies. Muniment Room The muniment room was a place for storing and displaying important documents. I think just about every miniature home I've ever done has included a library or study or just a room with lots of books and paper. In Highcroft, there is already the Sorcerer's Study with a shelf that will be filled with books and scrolls and yet another depository of written materials is earmarked for the catacombes. Do I really want yet another bookish room? How hard would it be to make display cases for the documents? Still Room The still room was where the herbs and other plant matter harvested from the gardens was turned into ointments, pastes and other concoctions to be used for eating, treating illness, cleaning and a variety of other purposes. Ideally this should be near the garden and probably out of the way of the rest of the castle because I'm sure from time to time there were rather unpleasant fumes were generated there. It should be added as part of the as yet unstarted right hand side wing of the castle which is where the garden will be. (Unless I decide to ditch the whole right wing and just stick with what I've already got of course). Throne Room No, not the sort associated with garderobes and cesspits! This throne room would be where the kings and queens of the kingdom granted audiences and listened to the concerns of their people. The main feature would be a very grand chair, raised on a dias with rich velvets draped liberally about. Again, the room is in a bit of a funny position in the castle to put it to this use, but has the least drawbacks (that have so far occured to me) of all my present ideas for this room. Weaving Room Basically, a room with a big weaving loom in the middle. Perhaps a spinning wheel. A few stools and pieces of sewing and material. The catch is am I able to make a convincing loom? Even with a pattern and instructions from an old dollshouse magazine, it still looks kind of complicated to me.

Tasmanian Miniature Extravaganza 2010

Although it doesn't seem like two years since the last TME, there are only five weeks to go before it is on again!  This is the only dedicated dollshouse miniature fair held in Tasmania and will be attended by some of the best miniatures retailers in Australia and feature displays by local miniaturists. 

Those of you considering a trip to Tassie (or if you're local, within Tassie) should plan to be in Hobart on the 3rd or 4th of July 2010.  The TME is open between 10am and 4.30pm both days in the Long Gallery, Salamanca.  For those who don't know Hobart, the Long Gallery is adjacent to the Salamanca Market.

You can find a little extra info about it here

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Highcroft Castle - Week Fourteen

The Great Hall Table
I started this week by taking apart much of what I'd done the week before. As I rambled on about in last week's blog post, I didn't like the furniture I'd made for the Great Hall once I saw it in position. So I broke the original table up for salvage and moved on to plan C (having decided that plan B wouldn't work either). Sometimes the best solution to a problem is the simplest, so I designed a simple, straight table that runs the width of the Great Hall. The table top is a single piece of balsa wood, 10cm wide by 40cm long. It is supported on legs of balsa wood and wooden beads. I then made four bench seats, two for the far side and two for the near side of the table. Together with the chairs made last week, they provide seating for eleven "people". I didn't make a seat for the section of table opposite the chairs for a couple of reasons. First, where people are sat with their backs to the open front, they will block the view of people looking in and frankly, I am so proud of this table I want it to be seen! Second, it is in my plans that one of the guests at the coronation banquet being held in the Hall has arrived late and will be standing (or bowing) before the Queen, complete with attendants bearing gifts, thus occupying this space fully. Lastly, I think by the time I've dressed eleven people for dinner, I'll have had enough or just be too broke to buy another three dolls.

I had just finished assembling this furniture, placed it all the the Great Hall so it would be safe while the glue dried and started work on furniture for the Sorcerer's Study when there was an almighty crunching crash from the direction of the castle. I turned about just in time to see Ginny the cat falling to the floor. A few moments before she had been on the scratching post, about a 1.5 metres away and about as high as the top of the castle. I think she took a flying leap headed for the top of the castle where she likes to strech out and missed (by a mile), smacking into the Great Hall instead. The table had two broken legs, one bench seat was smashed to pieces, another had come adrift from it's legs and one of my lovely suits of armour had lost it's gauntlet and spear/halberd/whatever. The cat was in one piece, but wasn't seen to jump on anything for the rest of the day! There was however another odd noise from the castle's direction later that day. This time I turned around just in time to see Ginny actually climbing the side of the castle, using her claws to cling to the stonework. Thank goodness the major ingredient of the stone paste I used was intended for use outdoors and is very tough stuff!

After repairing the furniture for the Great Hall, I made a chair for the Sorcerer's Study to go with the table out of balsa wood and some Tiny Turnings and a perch for a bird from balsa wood, bamboo skewer and a small wooden cotton reel. I've seen a fabulous "peacock" being sold in an etsy store (click here for the item or here for the store and figure it shouldn't be too hard to create something similar of my own to sit on this perch. If all else fails, I'll just have to buy an original.  For the solar I've put together a simple tapestry frame and found a chair in my box of assorted furniture that isn't too out of place in the castle to go with it.

For the bedroom, I've made a folding screen, again largely of balsa wood. To make it look a little special, I used more Tiny Turnings in cut out panels at the top and relief stickers to create a carved look around inserts of mirror paper. I'm not altogether certain that there will be room in the finished bedroom for it, so it may yet end up in a different part of the castle.

All of this furniture (plus that made last week) was then painted in what I hoped would be a faux wood finish. Normally, I stain things with watered down brown paint, this doesn't cover the wooden beads used in some of the furnuture very well, so I tried something different. I started by painting everything a rather ugly and garish reddish pink and followed this with a couple of coats of slightly watered brown paint. The end result is a much richer, deeper colour than I normally achieve, but is perhaps still a touch too red for my taste. I probably should have gone for one more coat of brown. A couple of layers of gloss varnish gave everything a nice sheen.

The bulk of the furniture for the entire castle is now made and mostly finished (things like the bed still need finishing by being dressed). Remaining to do are some shelves to fill in that gaping hole in the catacombe wall and something to put in the middle floor of the Tower. At the moment, this space is being called the Mystery Room, because I still haven't decided what to do with it. I've discovered that being round makes a room smaller than it looks and very hard to furnish. Some weeks back I put a poll on the Dollshouse Emporium Forums asking what people thought I should use this space for. I suggested (another) bedroom or an armoury. The vast majority thought it should be an armoury. . . . But. . . . Halfway up a tower seems a pretty odd place for an armoury - when someone attacks the castle you don't want to have to run away from the doors, up a couple of flights of stairs to grab a weapon before heading all the way back to defend the castle! Besides, you need to control just who can grab a weapon, so an armoury in a room without a door seems like a poor choice. Last week I made a quick four post single bed and tried it out in the room. It was fine . . . provided you didn't mind climbing over the bed to get to the far side of the room. It was just oo big for the space, so I'm saving the bed to use in my next house and still need a good idea for the room. One of the suggestions I got on the forum was a "Sewing Room", which I wasn't too keen on at the time as I was going to have evidence of sewing in the solar. Now I'm thinking, what if I made a weaving loom and made it a weaving room? I remembered seeing instructions for a loom in one of the dollshouse magazines not too long ago, so I started going through all the magazines I've collected starting with the current ones and going backwards in time. As it turns out not very long ago was back in 2007! But now I do have instructions (not that I usually use them) and more importantly a picture to work from so I know what to do. I'm still not entirely certain this is what the room will be, but then what else could it be? You'll just have to keep reading future blog posts to see what I eventually decide.

Friday, May 14, 2010

A Nice Surprise

About two years ago I placed an order online from Jennifers of Walsall. I really can't remember exactly what was on the order, but it arrived all present and correct except for one item. I'd included with the order a "doll wig making pack". I had just started wigging my own dolls at the time and was using whatever I could get my hands on that might work to do so and making up the method to do it as I went. This is my normal approach to miniaturing, but it was only 0.99p (a bit under $2 in my language) and I thought that a proper "pack" would have better materials and a few hints on how one should wig a doll. Silly me, I didn't notice that it was out of stock. So when the rest of the order arrived without the wigging pack I just shrugged and didn't really worry about it. It was after all only $2, these days a bar of chocolate or a cup of coffee costs more than that.
So I forgot all about it for two years . . . until . . .
Completely unexpectedly I received a very small package in this morning's mail. First I thought: "It must be my bones" (they're the only small thing I have on order - I thought they'd make nice scraps for the castle kitchen) then thought "You only paid for them yesterday idiot, how could they possibly be here already?". When I spotted the Jennifer's of Walsall label, it still took me a moment or two to realise what it must be: the wigging pack! What a surprise!
When I opened the package I was a little disapointed as the "wigging pack" consisted of a hank of hair and nothing else. The word "pack" had suggested it would have some extra bits and bobs as well. Still, this is the first time I've seen proper dollshouse doll wigging material. Turns out it is a lot like the wool I've mainly been using in the past in texture and feel, but it has a sheen to it that the wool doesn't. Overall, I'd say it was $2 well spent and a nice surprise given I'm almost up to the stage of starting to dress and wig some dolls to live in the castle.
Oddly enough it was only yesterday I was poking about online and stumbled accross a store selling dolls wigging and thought I really ought to buy some proper wigging for all those bald dolls! At the time I was actually looking for some fabric I liked for the bedroom, or some ribbon that I could use as a table runner in the Great Hall, so I decided to save my money for what I was actually looking for. As it turns out, there is no fabric anywhere that I like for the bed, or jacquard ribbon or woven rug that is what I have in mind for the table. For the table I'm currently planning that is, the one I made already is going to been pulled apart and forgotten because it turns out I don't like it! I was also looking for some mini straw braid (for hat making) so I could try making some straw rugs for the castle (and my next project). Turns out actual straw coloured straw is very rare at the moment - as rare in fact as trying to find hens' teeth. Oh, I could buy white, or vivid orange, but not natural straw coloured straw. So although I passed by the dolls wigging site, when I later arrived at Silly Sisters I did spend money I didn't set out to from sheer frustration. I bought some of their brick impress moulds, one brick, one herringbone brick and one roof tile. There's no where to use them in the castle (I think) but they will be useful for the next project I'm planning and probably many other future dollshouses.
Then to top off yesterday's exercises in futility, I received an email from Janine at dollhousesandmore.com. Back in February I placed an order with her for various items for the castle but the one item I really wanted was some very ornamental wooden trim that is very rare. This order arrived in early March, but the wrong trim had been sent by mistake. So I sent an email just to check that the mistake was that the wrong trim had been packed rather than the trim having the wrong picture listed online. I wasn't complaining, just cheecking I'd get what I wanted if I placed another order (I'll find a use for the incorrect trim sometime), but I promptly got a refund for the cost of the trim anyway. So very pleased with the service I'd received, I placed a second order for the trim. Let's just say that I hope the folks who dwell in the nether region of the Lost (where the other half of the pair of socks, that nik-nak you know should be right there and all those packages that disappear in the mail all end up) really enjoy adding that trim to their own netherworld dollshouse. After waiting and waiting to give the package plenty of time to show up (it's really annoying when you get an order re-sent, then the original shows up and you have to send one back), we finally decided that Janine would re-send the trim. The email she sent most recently was to tell me that when she went to prepare the order, she discovered that she had run out of this particular trim and that the supplier wouldn't have any more until the end of May. Sometimes all there is to say is "bugger". I wanted that trim. I really wanted that trim. I was going to embellish the furniture in the castle with it. I'm already making that furniture and don't want to wait until the middle of June at the earliest to add the trim to it. In fact the furniture I've already made, I've simply designed not to include the trim or found alternatives so I could keep going without it.
So playing with dolls hair was a nice change from just banging my head against the nearest convienent hard surface.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Another give away from The Dangerous Mezzo

The Dangerous Mezzo of the Tudor - Medieval - Jacobean - Queen Anne blog (and if she's being honest it's Edwardian too now) is having yet another marvellous giveaway, this time to celebrate reaching 100 followers. She is offering a choice of three different sets of goodies; a tudor pack, a regency pack and an "old roses" pack. To enter, just join up as a follower (if you aren't already) and leave a comment on this post on her blog:

100 Follower Give Away

Entries close on 15th May 2010.

Highcroft Castle - Week Thirteen

This week it was the Great Hall's turn to aquire some furniture. The original idea was that the Queen and other high ranking diners would be seated on a dias in the centre of the room with the less important guests on benches to the sides. The "high" table would be semi-circular allowing for a brazier to be placed in the middle to keep everyone warm. The furniture that I've made for the Hall (everything bar the brazier) is pretty much exactly as I planned from the start of the project. . . . . . Too bad it doesn't look right in the space. Tall backed chairs on a raised dias right in front of the arched doorways at the back make the arches look lower - too low. They are supposed to look grand and impressive, but now they just get lost. Those seated at the sides of the dias will be indanger of toppling off it. The "low" tables and seating might squeeze a total of six diners, but would be better if there were only four. A total of seven guests at a banquet? It seems like a small gathering for such a grand occasion.

So . . .

I'm thinking that I will change the layout of this room. I'll block off the arched doorway on the right and turn it into a stained glass window. (This was supposed to be the doorway to the right wing one day, but the wing may never be added anyway and if it is, I'll just have to put fake doors in the back and have it connect to the main building via imaginary, unseen passageways.) The dias will move in front of this window so that the diners sit with their backs to it, still on the semi-circular table with a brazier in the cut out middle. I will then add either one long table with benches down the middle of the room (running from the dias on the right to the left wall) or two or three separate tables running from the back wall to the front, probably the former but it depends how things fit when I get around to measuring. The only problem with this arrangement will be that the symetry of the room will be ruined. So if I decide I don't like the room a-symetrical, I'll change it again and just have one simple long table running the length of the room, no dias, no curves, but more space to play with.

But all this will be handled (maybe) this week - I'm supposed to be telling you about last week. In the Great Hall the furniture has been made, as usual, from balsa wood with a few embelishments of wooden beads and some laser cut fretwork. The fretwork used in the chair backs was purchased on ebay from  amd5758 .  This seller has some wonderful castle/medieval pub type items, both ready made and some bits to make your own like the fretwork. The chairs themsevles are very simply made from four pieces of balsa wood - the back, the seat and two sides. These pieces were draw on paper to make sure they looked right, then the paper became a pattern for the chairs. A hole was cut in the backs to insert the fretwork and I may add a bead as a finial at each side of the backs. The table is similarly simple. It is merely balsa wood cut to shape supported on legs made from beads "strung" on toothpicks. The tip of the toothpick protrudes a little from the top of the beads, allowing me to push them into the balsa wood table tops to ensure everything is locked together. The dias is just cardboard covered in grey carpet with some red and gold braid to trim the edges. Also in the Great Hall, I've placed some scrap wood look paper at the back of the minstrel galleries, confirming that they do look better with a darker colour behind them. Now I just find some deep coloued paper that will look good with the room to use as a permanent wall covering.

Not a lot happened in the sorcerer's study this week. The bookcase I started modifying last week was supposed to be painted with layers of successivly lighter paint, lightly sanded to reveal the layers, but the midnight blue looked so good just as it was i decided to leave it as it was. I simply added a little rub on paint in light blue over the raised designs on the plaster trim pieces to highlight them. I've been collecting books to put on this bookshelf for months. Whenever there was a % off sale at one of my favourite Dollshouse stores, a pack of blank books was included in my order. It never occured to me to measure the height of the shelves I wanted to put them on. Yes, you guessed right, the books are too tall to fit on the shelves. I'll either have to pile them on horizontally instead of vertially or make my own books the right height.

The drawer's I've raised on stilts looked to good in their orginal finish to repaint, so I thought I'd just paint the bottom and have a contrast. It didn't work - the unit doesn't look like it's meant to be one thing with the bottom painted blue. So this will be painted as close to the wood colour of the top as possible. If this doesn't work, I'll have to repain the whole thing. Lastly, I made a quick table for the room out of balsa wood and recycled newel posts which still needs painting.

The final item I've made this week is the knoll sofa for the solar. Do you believe it is made from cardboard? Four rectangles of corugated cardboard make up it's frame. The side pieces were cut half way through just above the height of the seat to enable them to fold down. The back and side were covered in thin foam and upholstered with some fabric left over from an earlier project. The cushions for the seat are two pieces of thicker foam. The sofa still needs some finials on the back corners so that the sides can be tied up. Months back there were some suitable finials listed by one of the Australian based online DH stores I frequent. Now I need some . . . . yes you guessed it again - they no longer have them! Now I either have to improvise or pay to get something similar shipped from the US.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Highcorft Castle - Week Twelve - Part Three

Aside from the major changes in the kitchen and treasury, there have been a few minor changes to other parts of the castle. The catacombes have continued to receive layers of paint in order to achieve the "right" colour. I think I'm about there, I just need to highlight some of the individual stones for a bit of variation and make things look a little bit grubby.

I have made the skeleton of the bed for the royal suite. Now all I need is some fabric to dress it. I've been to the only store in town that sells fabric and as usual, they have nothing that will work. It needs to be something suptuous, vibrant and that looks like it belongs in a castle. I guess I'll have to try and find something on the internet. I have taken the purple/gold fabric off the bedroom walls and replaced it with more of the white paper I used on the ceiling. This just improves the look of the room no end and is how I should have covered the walls to begin with. It also means that I can use any colour of fabric in the room, which makes it easier to find something suitable. I hope.

The final piece of work on the castle this week has been on some furniture destined for the "Sorcerer's Study" at the top of the tower. I started with a plain and ordinary bookshelf and chest of drawers. I pulled the doors off the bottom of the bookshelf and replaced them with arches cut from a thin sheet of balsa wood. Around the top of the shelves I added some inverted plaster freize from Sue Cook Miniatures which gives the shelves a very gothic look.

For the drawers I made a base out of more balsa wood and some lengths of twisted air-dry clay. I want to add some decorative trim to this, and to the desk I'm yet to make. I first ordered some of this from the US back in February. When it arrived in early March, everything else in the package was right, but they'd sent the wrong trim. So I sent an email and they credited the length of trim. I them placed another order for a few bits and pieces and some more trim. That was about two months ago and I have yet to receive the order. The first time something went wrong, the seller was very understanding and even credited the item even though I did recieve something, albeit the wrong something, and was willing to keep it (I'll find a use for it one day). Someone pulled the wrong thing off the shelf and these things happen. This time I keep sending emails saying it's gone missing and can we track it at all and I don't get a response. Basically, I'm not happy and getting less and less happy everyday.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Highcroft Castle - Week Twelve - Part Two

The Treasury (next door to the kitchen) was also given a few improvements durring the week.  The most important feature of the Treasury is the gate - after all what good is a Treasury if you can't lock the treasure in?  The gate was made from pieces of bamboo skewer cut to length held in place at the top, bottom and at two points part way up by strips of balsa wood.  Wooden beads were threaded on the skewers in an arrow head arrangement to add interest to the bars formed by the skewers.  The top of the gate is a pre-purchased piece of fretwork that fills in the arched doorway nicely.  Once assembled, all this was given a coat of charcoal black paint, followed by a metallic pewter to give the gate a shiny, metal like finish.  Eventually, the gate is going to be fixed in place, but for now it's just leaning in place so I can access the space behind it.

If you use a fair amount of imagination, the space behind the Treasury gate is part of the hallway that connects the kitchen and treasury to the rest of the castle.  In the hallway right outside the treasury two guards are on always duty (although not always the same two guards), guarding the castle's treasure.  As the peoples of Oronia are generally happy and well provided for, and because the treasury is deep within the castle and thus hard to get to, guarding the treasury is a fairly dull job.  So dull, in fact, that the guards are given a table and stools so they can sit and play checkers or dice games to pass the time.  I bought a lovely barrel table and two barrel stools on ebay.  They fit the space well and look fabulous, but in the dim space at the back of the treasury they're very hard to see.  I lined the ceiling and side walls of the hallway space behind the treasury with mirror paper to enhance the light, but it's still hard to see into this space once the gate is on the treasury.  So I painted the bands that hold the barrels together in a metallic copper paint to add some sparkle, which does make the table and stools stand out better, but I still think I might make a quick and plain table and stools and save the more expensive, more decorative barrel table and stools for the next project and for where they can actually be seen.

By the treasury gate, I added a pile of precious fabrics of brocade and velvet and anythings else I had that looked valuable enough to lock up.  The fabrics are just off cuts wraped around off cuts of balsa wood or cardboard to create mini bolts of fabric.  They are piled up rather haphazardly, refelcting the haste with with they were searched through when the new Queen of Oronia needed a new gown as soon as possible for her coronation.

At the front right of the treasury, a weapons rack has been made to fit against the wall.  Again, it's maily balsa wood with a little trim of bronze leather for decoration.  The lengths of bamboo currently housed in the rack will eventually be replaced with spears, pikes, halberds and other suitable weaponry.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Highcroft Castle - Week Twelve - Part One

Reading other peoples blogs is a dangerous thing. A couple of weeks ago Dangerous Mezzo of the Medieval/ Tudor/  etc blog posted about her recent purchases from Suramics Pottery on Etsy. The pots looked so good I just had to follow the link to Suramics shop and the prices there were so good I couldn't resist buying some for the castle's kitchen. It took just seven days for them to arrive from the US (it usually takes longer for that to get mail sent from within Australia, so I was impressed). Suramics pots and jugs are fabulous for the price (about $3.00US each) but they are solid and none of the lids come off. In the photo to the side you'll see the Suramics pots migled with pots bought from Barehaven Miniature Pottery (bought 2 years ago for my last castle). The Suramics items are the two large brown jugs and the pots/jars with the blue and brown glaze. The Barehaven pots are smaller and hollow with removable lids, but about four times the price. I've decided to spread the two 'brands' of pottery between the new and old castles for variety and to give the old castle a bit of a change.

You may also have noticed in the photo that the kitchen table has changed since my last post. I spent all day Saturday "in the kitchen" and all the furniture for the kitchen is now finished. To the table (which I made a few weeks ago) I added a cage beneath where live chickens and other fowl that find themselves on the menu are kept alive right up until the last moment to ensure their freshness. It's empty at the moment as the evening meal has already been served.

Not only has the meal been served, but the kitchen staff have started to wash up the dishes, making the next item made a necessity: a washtub. Technically I suppose the washing up would have been done in a separate area (like a scullery) or even outside in the nearest stream, but I don't have room to add these to my castle, so I settled for a big tub in the corner of the kitchen. It was made from balsa wood in random widths cut to 4.5cm long. These were lined up and stuck on a length of duct tape. This created a single, flexible strip which was wrapped around a flat, round piece of wood (with the duct tape on the inside) to create the tub. Wooden beads were glued on the bottom to make feet. Eventually, the tub will be filled with washing up water and dirty pots. To reduce the amount of "water" needed to do this, I used an old paint tub lid turned upside down to make a tray that fits in the top of the tub.

The last piece of furniture to be made for the kitchen was a small trestle table that stands next to the wash tub. It will either be piled with dirty dishes waiting to be washed or clean ones waiting to be dried and put away. It consists of two trestles, each made from three balsa wood legs pinned to a top bar. The table top sits on these two bars. The hardest part of making this table was getting the right angle on the legs, not to mention the same angle on all the legs. It was a lot of fiddling to get a stable table of the right height, but I did succeed . . . Eventually.

With everything made, all the furniture for the kitchen (including the dresser and shelves I made previously) were stained with watered down brown paint to look like wood. When dry, I had fun pulling out my collection of bowls, plates, jugs, pots, baskets and other kitchenware and seeing how it looked in the kitchen. I was amazed how much I had amassed since first starting the castle only a few months ago. Of course, not everything I've collected is going to be used in Highcroft's kitchen - some is for the kitchen of my next project (unless I change my mind about what I'm doing next between now and when Highcroft is finished).

Between fiddling with furniture, I made a start on the fireplace. I made some whatchemacallits (things that support the spit for roasting meat) out of scraps of foamboard covered in scraps of cardboard with stencilled stone left over from the front of the tower. The front edge of these was covered in black card and hooks made from clay painted black were added at (almost) level increments. Some pieces of bamboo skewer were cut down to size and painted black for the spits. Soot was added to the fireplace, chimney and much of the kitchen. This was done using antiquing gel sponged on rather unsubtley. I still need to add another layer of soot with chalk paints for a softer, more graduated finish. Looking a the photo of the result, I realise that I've forgotten to mention the small stool for the spit boy to sit on while turning the spit to ensure the meat is evenly cooked. This is again just balsa wood cut to the right size and shape and glued toegther.

As I'm a little pressed for time at the moment, I'm splitting this week's update into two parts. I should add part two which covers the rest of the week's progress in a couple of days.